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UI breaks record with 24 Fulbright awards
UI breaks record with 24 Fulbright awards
UI breaks record with 24 Fulbright awards
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the additional Fulbright awards earned by Zainab Mousa-Makky, Cameron Keomanivong, and Megan Koch, raising the number of awardees from 21 to 23, and from 23 to 24.
A record 24 University of Iowa students and alumni from a range of creative, academic, and scientific fields have been chosen from among more than 10,000 students nationally to receive a prestigious Fulbright award to conduct research, teach English, or undertake creative projects abroad in 2020–21.
For the past year, these Fulbright finalists have been encouraged by advisors, nominated by professors, and supported by those who have witnessed their academic dedication and service to the community to take a crucial step forward in applying to represent their country as citizen ambassadors.
“Our  finalists and 11 alternates this year have undergone a rigorous selection process,” says UI Fulbright faculty mentor Kathleen Newman. “We congratulate them and we wish them well as they begin their work abroad as researchers or English teaching assistants. This is a wonderful opportunity to make international connections and to learn to see the world from another culture’s perspective.”
This year saw the largest number of UI applicants ever, with a total of 51 UI students completing the rigorous application and interview process. A record number of 42 semifinalists were selected to compete in the second round of the competition.
In the past five years, 82 UI students have received awards to 33 countries, supported by faculty and staff mentors with world region and country expertise.
For the fifth consecutive year, the UI received the honor of being named a top-producing institution of Fulbright students nationally.
“Iowa’s unprecedented success in this year’s Fulbright competition underscores the UI’s role as a national leader in global education,” says Russ Ganim, associate provost and dean of International Programs, which oversees the university’s Fulbright programs. “The sustained level of collaboration between faculty, staff, and students needed to achieve this success spotlights our dedication to providing high impact international opportunities to our campus community.”
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. It is designed to increase understanding between the people of the United States and other countries by providing participants the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
The Fulbright competition is administered at Iowa through International Programs under the guidance of Fulbright Program Advisor Karen Wachsmuth. Students interested in applying for the 2021–22 Fulbright competition should make an appointment to learn more about the application process.
“These excellent students represent the diversity of our university,” says Wachsmuth. “They have lived both in Iowa and in countries like Singapore and Kenya, they have studied diabetes in our labs, written hip-hop poetry, worked with prisoners, taught movement to the blind, volunteered in our hospitals, and been active in our student government. They bring their skills and talents from all parts of the university and, for the first time this year, UI awardees come from the fields of dance and economics. We know they will represent the best of Iowa abroad, and we look forward to hearing about their future as new members of our growing UI Fulbright family.”
Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
This year’s recipients include:
Raj Chakrapani, of Cerritos, California, graduated from UI in 2017 with an MFA in creative writing. With his Fulbright study/research arts grant to Romania, Chakrapani will translate an anthology of contemporary poetry from women and Roma writers from Romanian to English.
Jorrell Watkins, of Richmond, Virginia, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with an MFA in creative writing and poetry. With his Fulbright study/research arts grant in creative writing to Japan, Watkins will study Japanese music and history, ultimately composing a collection of performance poems combining the aesthetics of hip-hop and blues with those of Enka, a genre of traditionally-styled Japanese music.
Caroline Baum, of Ames, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with dual degrees in international relations and economics, and minors in Arabic and French. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Morocco, Baum will teach English at a Moroccan university, as well as organize a cooking club with her students.
Mark Schoen, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BS in economics and a BA in studio art. With his Fulbright study/research grant in economics to Indonesia, Schoen will study the economic influence of Indonesia’s tax amnesty program and its impacts on inequality.
Alyssa Gersony, of Rutland, Vermont, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with an MFA in interdisciplinary studies (choreography and intermedia performance). With her Fulbright study/research grant in dance to Latvia, Gersony will develop a performance piece about her Jewish ancestry and create an after-school dance program for students at the Riga School for the Blind.
Lucas Fagre, of Waverly, Iowa, graduated from the UI in 2019 with a BS in global health, a BA in anthropology, and a minor in Russian studies. Fagre is the recipient of the only dual-country grant offered to Bulgaria and Romania this year. With his Fulbright Study/Research grant in public health, Fagre will perform a qualitative study of the reasons for low measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination rates among Roma communities located in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Senéad Short, of Iowa City, Iowa, graduated from the UI in 2018 with a BA in international studies and a minor in French. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Taiwan, Short will teach English and offer dance and art lessons to children in the community. Short is the seventh UI grantee to Taiwan in consecutive years.
Cassandra Bertolini, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BA in German, a BA in English and creative writing, and a minor in translation for global literacy. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Germany, Bertolini will teach English at a secondary school, leading exercises focused on promoting intercultural exchange and understanding.
Tess Van Den Hurk-Moran, of Emmetsburg, Iowa, graduated from the UI in 2019 with a BA in English and minors in Spanish and psychology. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Argentina, Van Den Hurk-Moran will teach English at a teacher training college in Argentina and plans to organize a creative writing and translation workshop for students and community members.
Sydney DeBoer, of Iowa City, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BA in history and a BA in secondary social studies education. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to the Czech Republic, DeBoer will teach English at a secondary school and plans to organize a global issues club to inspire critical thinking on domestic and international issues.
Caroline Brown, of Iowa City, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BS in biochemistry and a BA in Spanish. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Spain, Brown will teach English and science education in Galicia. She also hopes to volunteer at a local hospital or clinic, serving as a translator and nursing assistant.
Maggie Fischer, of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BA in German and a BA in history. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Germany, Fischer will teach English and work as a cultural ambassador at a local church and assist with local student choirs.
Neha Haque, of LeClaire, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BA in English and creative writing. With her Fulbright Teaching Assistantship Award to Mexico, Haque will teach English, research herbal dental treatments, and engage the community with a Bollywood fusion dance group for local elementary students.
Jackson Guilford, of Indianola, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BS in political science and minors in international relations and English. With his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Serbia, Guilford will teach English and plans to organize a tennis club for K–12 students in the community.
Maya Mahajan, of Iowa City, Iowa, and Los Altos, California, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BA in political science, philosophy, and ethics and public policy, and minor in Spanish. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Spain, Mahajan will teach English and hopes to work with a nonprofit serving the needs of immigrant and refugees in the Canary Islands.
Margaret Wairimu Mungai, of Des Moines, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BS in neurobiology and minor in Spanish. With her Fulbright Study/Research grant in biology to Spain, Mungai will be studying type 2 diabetes at the Institute for Research in Barcelona, Spain, improving our understanding of insulin’s responsiveness in the body.
Isabella Senno, of Evanston, Illinois, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BS in anthropology (gender and culture track), a BA in psychology, and a minor in Spanish. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Spain, Senno will teach English, conduct academic writing skills workshops, and volunteer with a local organization dedicated to empowering women.
Eric Baron, of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with an MFA in creative writing (fiction). With his Fulbright Study/Research Arts grant in creative writing to Germany, Baron will research and write a novel set in postwar Berlin, following the lives of Jewish survivors, East European asylum-seekers, and Germans under military occupation.
Margot Allscheid, of Oak Park, Illinois, graduated from the UI in 2019 with a BA in elementary education and a minor in Spanish. With her Fulbright Teaching Assistantship Award to Spain, Allscheid will teach English in the Canary Islands, organize a dance group in the community, and volunteer with a local LGBTQ+ rights organization.
Zainab Mousa-Makky, of Iowa City, Iowa, graduated from the UI in 2020 with a BA in international relations and ethics and public policy, and a minor in Arabic. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Morocco, Mousa-Makky will teach English in a public Moroccan university and lead a weekly conversation group, creating a space for Moroccan students to express themselves and share their unique backgrounds.
Cameron Keomanivong, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, graduated from the UI in 2020 with a BS in neuroscience and a public health certificate. With his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Laos, Keomanivong will teach English in a secondary school, help coordinate a youth soccer club, and become involved in local games of kataw (kick volleyball).
Megan Koch, of Adel, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2021 with an MS in Geoscience. With her Fulbright study/research grant to Poland, Koch will be studying ancient tectonic processes in the circum-Arctic region and evaluating their role in shaping the modern world.
Leon Pan, of Concord, California, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with an MFA in creative writing. With his Fulbright Study/Research Award in creative writing to China, Pan will write an English-language poetry collection set in Shanghai, China, exploring the relationships between architecture, language acquisition, race and ethnicity in the context of transnational/“migratory” corporatism.
Ajla Dizdarevic, of Waterloo, Iowa, will graduate from the UI in 2020 with a BA in English and creative writing and a minor in French. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Croatia, Dizdarevic will teach English, organize weekly creative writing workshops, and facilitate a pen pal program to encourage cultural exchange between Croatians and UI students.